X-ray tomography is a nondestructive technique that can be used to study rocks and other materials in three dimensions over a wide range of sizes. Samples that range from decimeters to micrometers in size can be analyzed, and micrometer- to centimeter-sized crystals, vesicles, and other particles can be identified and quantified. In many applications, quantification of a large spectrum of sizes is important, but this cannot be easily accomplished using a single tomogram due to a common trade-off between sample size and image resolution. This problem can be circumvented by combining tomograms acquired for a single sample at a variety of resolutions. We have successfully applied this method to obtain crystal size distributions (CSDs) for magnetite, pyroxene + biotite, and quartz + feldspar in Bishop Tuff pumice. Five cylinders of systematically varying size (1–10 mm diameter and height) were analyzed from each of five pumice clasts. Cylinder size is inversely proportional to image resolution, such that resolution ranges from 2.5 to 17 μm/voxel with increasing sample size. This allows quantification of crystals 10–1000 μm in size. We obtained CSDs for each phase in each sample by combining information from all resolutions, each size bin containing data from the resolution that best characterizes crystals of that size. CSDs for magnetite and pyroxene + biotite in late-erupted Bishop pumice obtained using this method are fractal, but do not seem to result from crystal fragmentation. CSDs for quartz + feldspar reveal a population of abundant crystals <35 μm in size, and a population of crystals >50 μm in size, which will be the focus of a separate publication.
- Received 13 November 2009.
- Revision received 7 April 2010.
- Accepted 9 June 2010.
- © 2010 Geological Society of America